Tears flow as killer whale act returns
Published 01/03/2010 | 05:00
EMPLOYEES wept and audience members fell silent at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, as the theme park's popular killer whale show resumed with a photo montage memorial for a trainer who was killed by one of the orcas in front of horrified spectators five days ago.
The show had been shut down since veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau (40) died after rubbing a 22ft, 5,400kg orca named Tilikum. The animal grabbed her ponytail and pulled her into the water in front of about 20 spectators. The medical examiner said she likely died of traumatic injuries and drowning.
More than 2,000 people packed the park's stadium on Saturday for the first show since Ms Brancheau's death.
It was a fitting tribute to Ms Brancheau, whose family said she always wanted to work with the giant whales.
The whale trainers received a standing ovation as they approached the platform before the show. And several SeaWorld employees wept as the photo montage set to music was shown.
However, the trainers weren't allowed in the water, meaning the whales' handlers did not surf on top of the orcas.
SeaWorld officials said trainers won't swim with the orcas until they finish reviewing what happened to Ms Brancheau.